“Weaving the electronic quilt”

I’m a baseball person.  I love the game, and I love how the game has built a ‘language’ out of it’s statistics.  Back when the earth was still cooling, and dinosaurs roamed various outfields, that is to say the ’80’s,  the only source for stats came from the Elias Sports Bureau, often through the pages of The Sporting News.  But for fans who wanted access to stats…let’s just say it wasn’t cheap or easy.  So people started building a data base of games and plays of what was current being played.   But people wanted to apply the same thing to games before 1984, and they did in Project Retrosheet.   I worked on this for many years entering over 4,000 games from old scoresheets, newspaper accounts… you name it.  We did this for nothing, and all the data was free as well.  I’ve always called this ‘weaving the electronic quilt’, building the knowledge base that others will do research from.  And that effort continues to this day.

I now see this effort as not just a charity, but a pointer to what we will all do eventually….create!  Amba sent me this interesting link which takes my older idea even further.  Creation is not just making the Mona Lisa; it’s building all the little connections, knowledge, and tools that are now what people want.  We are just at the beginning of how to ‘monitize’ this creativity; I suspect these early forms will give way to more sophisticated and complex ones.




Filed under Ron

7 responses to ““Weaving the electronic quilt”

  1. wj

    I understand and sympathize with your enthusiasm for creativity and creative work. But (sorry to sound like a broken record) it is far from a universal desire.

    The reasons are probably rooted in our early evolution. In a subsistance existance, change is a risk, and there is very little cushion to allow risk. Which is why, even today, subsistance cultures are so very “conservative.” It’s frustrating for those who are determined to bring people into the modern world. But all their experience has taught them that, while change may be good, it may also be bad — and when it is bad, it is a disaster for those who changed.

    As a result, most people are not real comfortable with changes. Think of the outrage of people who have worked at the same manufacturing job for decades, andnow have to think about doing something new. It is not just that they feel put upon, they are actually tyerrified at the idea of change. A new book or a new TV show (albeit one similar to their favorites) is OK. But something new that relates to their livelihood? Big NO!

    What I’m saying is, for a really large number of people, the challenge is not to monetize creativity. It is to deal with creativity (i.e. change) at all. Or, to put it another way, for them the challenge is how to monetize something that is NOT change.

  2. kngfish

    wj, I think you misunderstand where I’m coming from here. I’m not saying people will move to creative work (at least as we’ve traditionally called it), but that work will necessarily become more creative. It’s not a question of whether people ‘desire’ it or not. I’m saying that the creativity is what will bring the work market value.

    Evolution? By the standards of evolution all the changes I’m talking about are occurring at warp speed! The long term thrust of ‘subsistence cultures’ is to not be a subsistence culture! What I’m discussing isn’t based on if people feel comfortable with it or terrified or whatever, it’s based on how they can monetize and sell the changes that markets will force them to make. No one buys ‘NOT change’.

    We may want things to stay the same, but we reward change time and time and time again. Those manufacturers? Their grandparents weren’t doing that at all, and maybe their grandkids won’t do it either.

    • wj

      Some of us will thrive because creativity is rewarded. More will cope. But there are, IMHO, a substantial number of individuals who simply cannot cope. It’s not that they don’t want to be creative, it’s that they effectivcely cannot do so.

      OK, that’s an overstatement. Pretty much everybody has some flexibility. But just because someone can change, does not mean that they will not really, really hate it. And resent having to do so, even a little. In the United States, the culture has long celebrated innovation, so those attitudes are, to some extent repressed. Still present, but expressing them is discouraged.

      But then there is the rest of the world. Not having been born out of immigrants (people who were willing to move to somewhere new and create new lives for themselves), and not having had new lands to move into, their cultural DNA is different. Objecting to change is much more acceptable in those cultures. And so adjusting to a world where economics requires constant change is going to be even harder.

      As to your other point, people actually DO buy “Not change.” To take a really trivial example, consider the question: Boxers or Briefs? Not for the answer — but think about When did you start with your current choice? I’m betting that it was a very long time ago. (High School in my case.) Maybe you change between Jockeys to Haynes, for example. But between boxers and briefs? I doubt it. And we, remember, are among the minority which is comfortable with change in general.

      • kngfish

        wj, I’m not so sure that even the most traditional cultures on earth are immune to change, and many even embrace it. I’m not sure this is true, but I thought I read that this year more Facebook users will be in India and not the US?

        My choice has changed more than once since high school….in many things! 🙂

  3. amba12

    The strange thing is that even when we have paying work, even when it’s interesting, we will steal time from it to participate in weaving this electronic quilt, for which we’re not being paid—it’s such a compelling activity, such a heady blend of sociability, idea-hunting and idea-trade, and problem-solving. It requires less deformation of human nature than “work.” (I don’t mean “deformation” in a negative sense, but in the sense of materials science; a deformation of a material with a memory stores energy, which is released when the material returns to its original shape. In this way when we work we store up energy for larger-scale achievements, but it’s a strain—that energy is taken from other things we would “naturally” be doing, like socializing or moving around.) . . . I recently heard about a scheme to have the treadmills and ellipticals in gyms generate electricity, so that people mindlessly exercising (I once wrote about how bitterly our beast-of-burden ancestors would laugh at the sight of us “lifting nothing and running nowhere”) would actually be doing something useful. If only there were some way to harness all this “squandered” online creativity. It is definitely creating value, but it’s hard to track where any bit of it goes and how it affects the whole; it’s like chaos theory—the fart of a butterfly that untraceably leads to a hurricane.

    • kngfish

      I noticed the other day that skyscrapers (Amba are there any of these where you live? :0 ) are now installing “recovery braking” (like you see in cars) in their elevators! The energy used in the drop is being turned into electricity for the building itself!

  4. “If only there were some way to harness all this “squandered” online creativity. ”

    That’s been the biggest question of my life for the past 16 years!

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